What are your Hepatitis C Risks?
The hepatitis C virus is the most common cause of chronic viral liver disease in the United States. It is estimated that 1.8% of the U.S. population or about 4 million Americans are infected with hepatitis C. Infection is most prevalent among those born between 1945–1965, the majority of whom were likely infected during the 1970s and 1980s when rates were highest. The CDC estimates that there are 30,000 new acute cases of hepatitis C each year.
What You Should Know
In the United States, hepatitis C virus (HCV) is the most common chronic blood-borne infection, the most common cause of chronic liver disease contributing to progressive liver fibrosis, cirrhosis and liver cancer, and is the most frequent cause for liver transplantation.
HCV infection can be detected by anti-HCV screening tests (enzyme immunoassay) 4-10 weeks after infection. Anti-HCV can be detected in >97% of persons by 6 months after exposure.
Who gets Hepatitis C infection?
Hepatitis C is spread primarily by contact with blood and blood products. The use of injection illicit drugsis the most common mode of disease transmission including those people who injected illicit drugs onlyone time many years ago. People who received blood transfusions, transfusion of blood products or organ donations prior to 1992, when sensitive tests for HCV were introduced for blood screening, are at risk for hepatitis C infection, as are persons who received clotting factors prior to 1987.Other persons at risk for hepatitis C include long-term kidney dialysis patients, people with tattoos and body piercing other than pierced ears, health care workers after exposures (i.e., needle stick or splashes to the eye) from the blood of an infected person while on the job, infants born to HCV-infected mothers, people with high-risk sexual behavior, multiple partners and sexually transmitted diseases, people who snort cocaine using shared equipment, and people who have shared toothbrushes, razors and other personal items with a family member who is HCV-infected.
Is hepatitis C sexually transmitted?
HCV can be spread by sex, but this is rare, accounting for less than 1% of overall cases. Sexual transmission is more common in men having sex with men. If you are having sex with more than one steady sex partner, use latex condoms correctly and every time to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.
How many patients with hepatitis C develop cirrhosis?
It is estimated that nearly 20% of patients with chronic hepatitis C will develop cirrhosis over a period of decades. Factors which influence progression to cirrhosis include co-infection with hepatitis B or the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), alcohol use and obesity.
Can patients with hepatitis C drink alcohol?
Regular alcohol intake has been shown to lead to increased liver damage in patients who have hepatitis C. HCV-positive persons should be advised to avoid alcohol because it can accelerate liver damage and progression to complications from cirrhosis.